School teacher juggles virtual lessons with a booming lockdown business via Instagram

By Sian Bayley, local democracy reporter

It’s fair to say it’s been a tough year for our favourite local businesses as we continue in the third national lockdown – with no clear end date in sight.

But despite the difficulties, some businesses have come up with ingenious ways to keep going.

One example is Zakariah Khan, 23, who runs an Instagram business, Bismillah Cup Cakes, from his home in Tooting.

He produces everything from personalised clothing, to chocolates and even prayer mats, as well as being a primary school teacher.

But in order to make these products, he had to invest a lot of money in equipment, which became a problem when the first lockdown was imposed because he didn’t qualify for any grants.

“We lost a lot of money. With a lot of exposure, we’re getting there, but with lockdown again, it’s affecting us again,” he said.

Fortunately he was able to keep positive when doing online lessons with his pupils, which helped him to “keep his mind fresh”.

Normally he makes things for people to hand out at events, but has turned towards more personal, home products this year, such as personalised prayer mats.

After creating his own, he asked his audience on Instagram and Facebook if they would be interested in purchasing one – and soon found a new niche.

“A lot of people wanted to gift them to their loved ones as they couldn’t see them during the first lockdown,” he said.

“I came up with a new design and made sure it worked for everyone. And everyone was very happy in the end. The products are made by myself and the prayer mats are stitched by myself.”

He said Ramadan and Eid were his busiest period last year.

“I am very happy and grateful with all the support that I have received from everyone this has helped me so much,” he added.

Usually Zakariah is booked up for most of the year with weddings, birthdays and events, but lockdown restrictions have inevitably slowed business again.

“I had some enquiries for February, but now nothing,” he explained.

“I think hopefully once this lockdown is over I think we can all make back our income, but it will take time. I thought this year would be the way of making back the income, but it’s not looking good this year.”

Despite the difficulties, Zakariah remains positive and plans to open his own personalised shop in Tooting this year.

“I’m working on something big,” he said.

You can view Zakariah’s instagram here:

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